Lupin III: Operation: Return the Treasurenote is the fifteenth Lupin III Made-for-TV Movie. Directed by Jun Kawagoe, who worked on storyboards for several of the previous specials, it was originally shown on August 1, 2003, and has yet to have an English language release.
Famous thief Mark Williams has passed on, but still asks one favor of his longtime rival Lupin III. Using Fujiko as a proxy, he wants his peer to return six priceless treasures he stole to their original places within seven days. If Lupin does so, he will be told the hiding place of the Trick Diamond, a mysterious meteorite with ties to the Sagrada Família in Barcelona; combined, the two are said to be the key to an unimaginable treasure.
Naturally, Lupin is not the only interested party. Ruthless Russian mafioso Ian "Rats" Krochvich is also interested in acquiring the Trick Diamond and its secrets. His gang, lead by his violent and ruthless girlfriend Misha and The Dragon Tokarev, follow Lupin’s every move, hoping to stop the thief from succeeding in snagging the diamond first. As time runs down, Lupin is deprived of his allies and his enemies become more desperate. Will the master thief survive long enough to get his hands on the Trick Diamond, let alone the fantastic treasure it hides?
Complete spoilers below — don't read further if you don't want to know how this caper turns out!
This TV movie features examples of:
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Mark’s test to see if Lupin is the one accessing the location of the Trick Diamond. The question is what treasure did Lupin and Mark once compete to steal in New York. The choices are A) Cash, B) Gold bars, and C) Toilet paper. The correct answer is the two raced to steal the toilet paper from Donald Trump’s penthouse. Mark won.
- A-Team Firing: All of Keln’s shots miss the completely still Misha. She picks him off with Boom, Headshot!.
- Ax-Crazy: Misha’s solution to almost any problem? Kill ‘em.
- Blood from the Mouth: After Jigen is beaten and interrogated by Tokarev.
- Bottled Heroic Resolve: Goemon calls on this to finish off Misha. Afterwards, he’s so weak Jigen has to help him out of the cathedral.
- By Wall That Is Holey: Each time Lupin uses his explosion to escape. The first two times, it falls around Zenigata. The third time, Totssan triggered the explosion early, and both Zenigata and Lupin will be crushed. Both think their luck will save them. Lupin is luckier.
- Camera Spoofing: Of the Slice and Dice variety at the beginning; Lupin’s gang takes advantage of the power blink to run footage of an untampered safe while Lupin works on the real one. Zenigata eventually finds an error, but naturally it’s too late.
- Dark Action Girl: Misha lives for violence and guns.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Misha, as she mentions to Jigen. The gun she's using was her grandfather's one. When he killed her father she killed him and took the gun. At the age of six.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Anita seems to have lost her passion for creating innovative architectural designs and is fired. She’s wondering what to do with her life when Lupin comes along, and her encounter with the gang inspires her to try again.
- Disguised in Drag: Lupin’s plan to return the original gowns to the Moulin Rouge is to have Jigen, Goemon, and him simply wear them in. It rather disturbingly works.
- The Door Slams You: Fujiko accidentally does this to Goemon. When he hears someone on the other side of the door, the samurai takes up a position to attack, only to get slammed when Fujiko furiously storms into Lupin’s hotel room after her betrayal falls through.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: In the end, Rats takes a bullet for the dying Misha.
- Implausible Fencing Powers: Goemon’s up to his usual tricks until his injury forces him into using his left hand instead of his right. He’s not as good with it, but he’s still ridiculously superhuman.
- The Mafiya: It is implied Rats is part of this.
- Mineral MacGuffin: The Trick Diamond, a specially cut meteorite that absorbs light but never lets it escape. This special property is needed to unlock the treasure of Sagrada Família.
- Oh, Crap!: Tokarev, as he realize that his gun is jammed and Jigen's next to him, with one bullet left. In the Italian dub he actually swears a bit.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Averted; after Goemon is shot, he nearly bleeds to death and his right arm and shoulder are rendered essentially useless for the rest of the film.
- Orphan's Plot Trinket: Anita’s teddy bear from Mark, given after her parents' deaths, turns out to hide a very important secret.
- Reliably Unreliable Guns: Justified example of a gun becoming useless after a jam. Jigen shoots his opponent to deliberately cause the jam, then kills the guy before he has the chance to clear the jam.
- Replaced with Replica: Inverted; Mark Williams has asked Lupin to un-switch six treasures that he had stolen while still alive. He also gives Lupin a deadline to complete the task. If Lupin fails to restore the treasures to their rightful places, he won't reveal the location of the Trick Diamond.
- Shoot the Rope: Jigen does this one better by shooting through a power cable. Fujiko also does this trick during the climax.
- The running gag with a wall falling so Zenigata or Lupin passes through an open window in it harks back to Buster Keaton's very dangerous stunt in Steamboat Bill, Jr..
- One of the treasures Lupin must return to Venice is the gadget gondola used in Moonraker. (He doesn't get to use any of the gadgets in it, though.)
- As with many Lupin specials, this one contains a number of shout-outs to The Castle of Cagliostro, including Lupin making a long-jump through the air to grab onto a tower, or the notion of the treasure everyone's been fighting over being a work of architecture too big for Lupin's pocket.
- This isn't the only Miyazaki Lupin influence, either; Lupin also encounters a young girl unaware an older relative had been a thief cohort of his in episode 21 of Lupin III: Part 1, "Rescue the Tomboy".
- A diamond hidden in a teddy bear also plays a role in the 1989 Lupin special, Lupin III: Bye-Bye Liberty Crisis!.
- Smuggling with Dolls: Lupin's rival Mark hides the stolen Trick Diamond in a teddy bear he gives to the orphaned Anita, turning it into an Orphan's Plot Trinket years later.
- Stolen Good, Returned Better: For everything Mark asks Lupin to return, he left a replica, probably to prevent his targets from noticing the theft before he got away. The replicas Mark left after his thefts were good enough to fool most folks, but imagine how thrilled his former targets are to get the real things back! Poor Zenigata, however, is very confused at first.
- Unexpected Inheritance: Anita didn’t know her beloved "uncle" was a world-class thief, and has no clue as to what he left her.